Pedaling in Chinatown

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Given that I had covered almost the whole west side of Manhattan in my first ride, I decided to check the east side on my next outing. I did a quick look up on cycling lanes by the East River, but in fact there weren’t many options. That led me to think: if my first ride was long, so why not cross a bridge this time? I set up a path from my apartment until Prospect Park, right in the middle of Brooklyn. On paper, this seemed like an easy ride.

However, I must confess that this ride wasn’t so good as the first one. The path until Manhattan Bridge is quite confusing when you are on the road. From my place there was not a straight path until, and when I got to Chinatown, I saw the chaos. I felt like in a 90’s movie, with crowded streets, people bumping on each other, and speaking a language incomprehensible to me. Did they all understand each other? Maybe that’s why there’s so many Chinese kung fu movies.

Anyways, the reality is much peaceful than a Jackie Chan movie, but the cyclist-pedestrians relationship is not the best. At some junctions, the cycling lanes are treated as an extension from the sidewalks. Many people just stand on the middle of the lane waiting for the green light, and barely glance at incoming cyclists. I haven’t seen any accidents happening, but you can’t be distracted.

In the middle of all this, I ended up getting lost and had to ask for directions. Not that they really help. Alas, Manhattan Bridge is pretty big, and I found it eventually. Although Brooklyn Bridge is much more famous, touristic, charming and great for taking photos, I don’t recommend crossing it by bike. There is a lane there for bikes, but they are narrow and there’s just too many people there. You have to beware of other cyclists, pedestrians, photographers and models. You can get by, but better go slow and be careful.

Crossing Manhattan Bridge by bicycle is far better. There’s a path exclusively for bicycles, with lanes on each direction, and because this bridge goes higher, the view is sensational. You just need a little bit more of effort, because it goes uphill for quite a while, and there’s a steep section in the beginning. The good thing is that it goes down for some time too!

At the end of the bridge, you land right into another cycling lane towards the Brooklyn Navy Yard. But soon I realized that I wasn’t going too far. After about 500 yards, I found myself at a huge construction site on the avenue, which made cars and bikes share the same space. The traffic seemed a little more nervous to me, maybe because there weren’t so many pedestrians around, or due to the lack of space and the makeshift indications and signposts.

But the biggest problem was the thirst. New York is infamous for its cold winters, but the summer there is no joke either. Very hot and humid, that was a hellish day as you would find in Rio de Janeiro. At that point I had drunk about 30oz of water and I couldn’t find a water fountain or even a shop around. So, I decided to go back home. There I went up the bridge and down again, but I continued without checking my path on the GPS. I decided to make a challenge of guiding myself by the sun. I rode on the cycling lanes following its direction until I found a familiar street, and soon I was home.

View from Manhattan Bridge, and Williamsburg Bridge in the background

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